What's That Smell? Never Mind, It's Just the Mail
Posted: November 15, 2007 | 21:45 ET
Back in the grand old Internet Bubble days, an Oakland, Calif.-based start-up promised to revolutionize the web by digitizing odours and triggering their release using software and a special plug-in device for PCs.
I didn't believe it when I first heard it either. But DigiScents was a real company, and Wired magazine even raved that "if this technology takes off, it's gonna launch the next web revolution."
Those days are gone, of course. But off-the-wall thinkers are still looking for ways to use scent to boost business. As the International Herald Tribune reports, Britain's Royal Mail has teamed up with Oxford, England-based Brand Sense to develop a new program that lets companies use scent in direct mail.
The initiative was developed in response to a number of threats, most of which are familiar to postal services worldwide. Obviously, e-mail has cut into Royal Mail's revenues from all sources. The organization is also facing increasing competition and a recent strike in response to planned staff cuts. And, of course, Royal Mail's direct mail customers are facing increasing resistance by consumers who are concerned about clutter in their mailboxes and waste in their landfills.
It's this last challenge that makes me wonder: Can scent-by-mail win consumers over? Is it something you'd try as a marketer, or it just a 21st century version of DigiScents' pushing the envelope too far? (And, no, the pun wasn't intended.)
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